Wellness Wednesday - Pilates, the Benefits, and the History

Our latest blog comes from our very own Physical Therapist, Jill Domke.  I really like her approach to Pilates and how she integrates it in to her rehab.  She also gives us a great insight towards the history of it all too.


When pursuing a better overall wellness, a very valuable tool and exercise method to take advantage of is Pilates. This method of exercise focuses on strength of the abdominal and gluteal (hip) muscles. Muscle flexibility and spine range of motion is also a benefit, as the very specific and detailed exercises work through a very wide range of motion for all joints. It also requires a very focused "mind-body connection," as all the exercises are to be done with precise control, alignment, posture, timing, and breath. 


"Pilates" comes from the name of the person who created the method; Joseph Pilates, and has a very interesting history. I find that learning that history helps with understanding the method behind it. Joseph started it in Germany during World War II as a method of rehabilitation exercise for injured people in the military hospitals. It was a very novel idea back then to do light exercise for the purpose of preventing de-conditioning and further disease while hospitalized. Professional boxer Max Schmelling heard of Joseph's work, and he paid him to come to New York City to train him and his team of boxers. Soon dance legends like George Balanchine and Martha Graham learned of Pilates' successful work in conditioning athletes, both injured and uninjured, and this is what initially made the exercise program popular. Joseph Pilates died in 1967, but his work continued to be practiced by one of his students, to whom he handed down the program. Eventually by the early 1990's the name "Pilates" emerged and it became popular outside of New York City, and the original certification program began. Since then, many other certification programs emerged, allowing more people to be trained in the "Pilates Method" which includes nearly 300 exercises ranging from very beginning to advanced movements that look like gymnastics. 


AT HPI, we believe that Pilates is an excellent adjunct to all our services, as it includes something called "neuromuscular re-education"  which helps and individual to train the body to work efficiently as a whole, using the core as the base of strength for the limbs to move against. If the foundation is weak, the limbs cannot generate force successfully, and the limbs will move on an unstable base. This is what often leads to "overuse" injuries, which are often really injuries from poor body mechanics or poor biomechanical alignment over time. Actually, we don't just "believe" this, there is a wealth of scientific evidence supporting Pilates in "The Journal of Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy," and the primary physical therapy journal, "Physical Therapy." 


Whether you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or simply looking to live a better life you really do owe it to yourself to experience Pilates.

-Jill Domke, PT, EP-C